BOSTON — The University of Maine’s power play, second-best in the country, had struggled of late.
But the third of Maine’s four power-play goals, coming off the stick of sophomore left winger Mark Anthoine 7:43 into the third period, snapped a 3-3 tie and gave the Black Bears a 5-3 victory over Boston University in their Hockey East semifinal at TD Garden on Friday night.
BU coach Jack Parker said Maine’s power-play success was aided by his team’s “ineptness and stupidity.”
Maine is now 6-0 against BU in Hockey East semifinals.
Matt Nieto’s second goal of the game tied it 3-3 4:03 into the third period when he took a pass from Adam Clendening, cut around Maine goalie Dan Sullivan and tucked it home.
But an errant clear by BU landed on Anthoine’s stick in the middle of the slot and he wheeled and beat Kieran Millan with a wrister over the goalie’s glove.
“I was looking to pass it but nobody was open,” said Anthoine, whose power-play goal was his 11th of the season. “I saw Joey (Diamond) screening in front so I shot it.”
The Terriers pressed for the equalizer but Sullivan came up with several late saves to preserve the win.
Sullivan made eight of his 12 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves in the third period. He wound up with 28 total saves.
Millan finished with 17 Grade A stops among his 39.
Diamond added an empty-net power-play goal off a Ryan Hegarty pass to supply Maine with a 4-for-6 showing on the power play.
Maine had been in a 1-for-23 slump with one-man advantage before Friday night.
Maine had scored a pair of five-on-three power play goals during the stretch.
“We worked on the power play a lot this week,” said Diamond. “We wanted to get it back to where it was.”
“It was a matter of three coaches yelling ‘Shoot’,” quipped Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “The guys kept it simple, stuck with it and got some screens in front.”
Fourth seed Maine is now 23-12-3 and will face top seed Boston College, 28-10-1 and winner of 14 straight since being swept by Maine on Jan. 20-21, in Saturday’s 8 p.m. title game. BC beat Providence 4-2 in the first game.
Maine senior left wing Spencer Abbott, the Hockey East Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Award finalist, suffered a head injury 4:03 into the third period and wound up watching the remainder of the game in street clothes. He was down on the ice behind the BU net when Nieto tied the game.
Whitehead said it was doubtful Abbott will play against Boston College. Whitehead said the injury was sustained courtesy of BU elbow to Abbott’s head.
Maine senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill, who snapped a 33-game goalless drought with a pair of second-period play goals that erased a 2-1 deficit, said after Abbott was injured “it was a matter of everybody stepping up (to compensate for his loss).”
After BU’s Alex Chiasson scored the only goal in the first period, Diamond tied it with a power-play goal 46 seconds into the second period.
Diamond’s 24th goal of the season was set up by a Matt Mangene pass.
Diamond had the puck in his skates and eventually kicked it to his stick and swatted it home from the top of the crease.
Nieto regained the lead on the power play as he finished off a pinpoint passing sequence as Evan Rodrigues passed it down to Sahir Gill at the edge of the crease to Sullivan’s right and he slid it across to the right circle where Nieto one-timed it into the open short side.
O’Neill drew Maine level at the 11:22 mark thanks to some industrious work by Anthoine.
Anthoine hunted down the puck in the corner to the right of Millan and passed it to the open O’Neill, who wristed the puck from the middle of the slot past Millan’s glove.
O’Neill scored again from a similar spot off a pass from Abbott.
Abbott broke down the right wing and recognized that teammates driving to the net were covered. O’Neill trailed the play unchecked and he took Abbott’s pass, took a stride and fired a wrister over Millan’s blocker.
“It was a great pass from Anthoine on the first one and a great pass from Abbott on the second one,” said O’Neill. “I’ve been trying to shoot more in the playoffs.”
Chiasson scored a fluke goal 2:46 into the game and the Terriers had two golden opportunities to extend the lead shortly afterward but Sullivan bailed the Black Bears out.
Chiasson’s 15th goal of the season came on a breakaway although he never actually shot the puck.
Chris Connolly flipped the puck in the neutral zone to Chiasson, who pushed it ahead with his glove and cut inside Maine defenseman Hegarty.
As Chiasson tried to transfer it from his backhand to his forehand, the puck rolled off his stick and slipped between the pads of Sullivan, who tried unsuccessfully to pokecheck the puck away from Chiasson.
But Sullivan more than atoned for the goal in the next couple of minutes.
First, Connolly made a soft pass ahead to an unattended Wade Megan, who had maneuvered behind Maine’s defensemen.
Megan, BU’s leading goal scorer with 19, was robbed by Sullivan, who kicked out his backhander.
Shortly afterward, Nieto made a tape-to-tape pass from the left wing to Rodrigues but Sullivan read the pass and smothered Rodrigues’ point-blank one-timer.
Sullivan also made a nice blocker save on a menacing snap shot by Ryan Santana from the top of the right circle.
Maine began generating chances over the second half of the first period and Millan was forced to make a few timely saves.
Millan positioned himself perfectly to made a chest save off Brian Flynn’s one-timer from the slot after Diamond stole the puck at the blue line and fed it to Abbott, who slid it across to Flynn.
Millan also stopped an Abbott deflection off an O’Neill point shot.
Maine outshot BU 13-6 in the first period.
Diamond noted that another key was Maine’s discipline and BU had just two power-play chances on the night.
“I was real proud of the team,” said Whitehead.
Parker said his team looked it was playing “not to lose.”